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Written by Javier Arizpe

March 5, 2019

Key skills every interpreter should have


Did you know that you need to fill a certain profile to fulfill the work field needs you want to work in? Being an interpreter is no easy task, this career has some demands that force professionals into developing a set of skills to be able to work successfully. This article will help you know some of the skills you’ll have to develop to work in this area.

Before diving into our topic, it’s important that we comment on the difference between an interpreter an a translator, the former works with oral messages, and the latter with texts. If you want to know more, check out our article about the differences between translators and interpreters.


Language skills

It’s important for an interpreter to have a deep knowledge of the languages he/she is working with, not only vocabulary and culture, but the ability to get across in both languages, understanding and conveying cultural references, idioms, and tone.


Work well under pressure

Discipline, determination, perseverance, and, above all, to know how to work under pressure are also important. You can develop this skill over time. Don’t forget, interpreters must keep their cool while listening, decoding, and conveying the information in the target language.



You need to know how to focus if you want to become an interpreter. You wouldn’t want to get too distracted when trouble arises during an interpretation event. An interpreter needs to have a great memory and concentration to work with two languages simultaneously. Good professional interpreters must use all five senses.



Being able to adapt to different situations and contexts, whether cultural or linguistic, is another one of an interpreter‘s abilities. One day you might be at a medical conference, and the other at a business meeting, so you have to be flexible to get more jobs and contacts.


Be a multitasker

You have to be able to carry out different tasks at the same time and use your sensory, cognitive, and motor skills at full extent. The abilities above are a must for any interpreter-to-be, since one of this career main qualities is immediacy. The main task of this job is to decode the speaker’s message almost immediately and saying it in the target language. There’s no room for error or time to ask questions.


Analytical skills

Interpreters must be quick-minded to analyze, synthesize, and interpret the speaker’s ideas and conveying them precisely and immediately. It’s also important being able to make quick decisions when translating. This skill goes hand in hand with the ability to focus .


Stay informed

Never stop studying and learning, as an interpreter, you’ll always have to know what’s going on in the world, so you get the references the speaker might say. You’ll never know what can be said in an interpretation job.


Good voice and appearance

A key skill for interpreters is to have a strong clear voice. Likewise, you always have to have a professional appearance. These are the main tools for any interpreter. However, keep in mind that as an interpreter you have to be “invisible” during the event, in other words, you have to act as an information transmitter.

What are YOU waiting for to develop these skills and become the best interpreter you can be?


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